SD2 unveils plans to offer college-credit classes to students in the fall

2014-04-16T22:24:00Z 2014-09-04T19:41:07Z SD2 unveils plans to offer college-credit classes to students in the fallBy NICK BALATSOS The Billings Gazette

School District 2’s struggles to launch a successful college credit dual-enrollment program for high school students may be a thing of the past.

Speaking Wednesday night at the Lincoln Center, Brenda Koch and Kathy Olson, the district’s two executive directors of school leadership support, laid out the details for a dual-credit program that allows eligible students to take classes at their high school for college credit through Montana State University Billings and City College.

The program is slated to start this fall.

Approved high school teachers will teach the college classes on a high school campus while working in collaboration with the colleges, they said. At first only 100- and 200-level courses will be offered.

Koch and Olson said the slow rollout is intentional — that way if there are any kinks, they can work them out as they come.

To start, two college classes are being offered in the fall: one math class, college algebra, and one welding class, college welding 125.

The math class will take place at each of the three high schools, if enough people enroll, and the welding class will take place at the City College Career Center.

Next spring SD2 plans to offer a more advanced math class and welding class, college trigonometry and college welding 157.

As long as a student is eligible, they can begin enrolling April 22.

“There are some responsibilities because you’re living in the college world and the high school world,” Olson reminded the crowd of about 25 parents.

To be eligible, she said, a student must be at least 16 years old or a high school junior or senior with an ACT score of 22 or higher. A Compass test score of 51 or higher will also qualify. That test is being offered by MSUB free of charge to potential dual-credit students.

The necessary paperwork also has to have been turned in on deadline.

That means a student has to have the dual credit application signed and given to a counselor. If the student is under 18, then a parent has to sign it. The application is used to indicate that a student is prepared for college-level work.

At MSUB, a student has to fill out their University Connections Application, which can be found on MSUB’s website.

And finally, a student has to have paid their bill.

Tuition for the program is half of MSUB’s in-state tuition, which works out to $51.50 per credit. And students pay no application or student fees.

“This is a screaming rate,” Koch said.

Those who successfully complete a class will receive credit from both their high school and either MSUB or City College.

Successful completion of a math class next year will earn three college credits from MSUB and half of a high school credit.

A student who successfully completes one of the welding classes will earn five college credits and one high school credit. The welding classes are two-period classes, Olson said.

Celia Denham, a sophomore at Senior High, said she is excited about the opportunity.

“I just like to challenge myself,” Denham said, adding that “it looks like really good experience.”

Her mother, Bonnie Denham, wasn’t as excited, but not because she’s critical of the program.

“The thought of my daughter going to college … I don’t like it. Too soon for me,” she said.

In order for any of the classes to take place, enough students need to enroll.

For math, that’s a minimum of 15 students. The welding classes are more flexible, Koch said.

But if a class does get canceled, refunds will be given.

The dual-credit program is the result of hundreds of hours of work, Olson said.

She said that although work on the program began last fall, it has been in the works much longer than that.

She said the sheer size of the Billings public school system created all sorts of logistical challenges along the way.

Koch and Olson said that they are in the process of hashing out a memorandum of understanding with MSUB. What they have now, Olson said, is a “gentleman’s agreement.”

But both were determined. The classes will happen, they said.

Koch is hoping that 60 students, 15 from each Billings high school, will enroll.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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